PRIME?MINISTER?Freundel Stuart yesterday announced that the long-overdue employment rights legislation should become a reality by the end of this year.
But union boss Sir Roy Trotman wants the laws in place by the end of this month.
Speaking before a large crowd attending the May Day celebrations at Browne’s Beach, Bay Street, St Michael, under overcast skies, the Prime Minister told workers Government’s position was that the legislation should be on the statute books before the end of 2011.
He made the announcement just before signing Protocol VI – which will govern employment, economic and other conditions for workers across Barbados – with the social partners.
Among other things, the Employment Rights Bill includes a statutory minimum notice of termination and also establishes a tribunal for the determination of issues relating to employment rights.
Stuart said: “For many, many years . . . we have been talking about employment rights legislation in this country. I want to say to you today that the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, has been evangelical in her pursuit of this piece of legislation and every present indication is that before the end of the year 2011 that piece of legislation should be on the statute books of Barbados.
“And the workers and the employers of Barbados will have before them a clearer understanding of their respective rights and duties and that should help to deepen and to further humanise our industrial relations environment and the overall society as a whole.”
Also in relation to the call by head of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) Cedric Murrell for changes to be made to the Public Service Act, Stuart said the legislation was also being reviewed.
He charged that it was “very hastily put together and rushed through Parliament like the rushing, mighty wind on the day of Pentecost”, adding: “As a result, it manifests many weaknesses which are occasioning hardship to the public service of Barbados.”
Speaking in what could possibly be his last address to workers on what is recognised as their day, Sir Roy said that until the Employment Rights Bill was passed the freedom of employees to associate would always be in jeopardy.
“The Prime Minister is from a working class background and we are very pleased to have him,”,he said. Turning to Stuart who was seated at the head table, he said,?“But you have to move just a little faster, Mr Prime Minister. Not a bill by the end of the year – a bill by the end of the month of May. That is more in keeping with what the workers are looking for.”
He charged:?“We seem to have this problem of people losing their jobs and having lawyers tell them that all the employer needs to do is give them a few weeks’ pay and that they have no rights in their job.
“We must be able to have employers understand that workers have rights and the rights are in their jobs; and so the Employment Rights Bill is a today must and not an end-of-year must. We have to get there if we have to swim.”
He expressed confidence that the political opposition would support the Bill, which he pointed out should not take more than a few hours of debate.